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it's a small world
(by rupert bottenberg)
october 14 1999

theory has it that everyone on earth is separated by no more than six degrees - you to mom to her doctor to his cousin to her accountant to his sister to the king of damn siam. you're that close. everyone's got their "six degrees" story. banco de gaia's toby marks has his, too.

"i was djing a pool party in san francisco," he says "and these jetlagged people stumbled in, obviously a band from the u.k. now, i had gotten a message from someone saying that my ex-manager's boyfriend was going to come and say hello. i thought, 'wait a minute, my ex-manager's a bloke and not gay, so what the hell are they talking about?' it turns out - it gets slightly complicated - my ex-manager's assistant's boyfriend was the drummer in this band, and we did know of each other. so, of all the places to be when he hops off the plane, there's me djing. it's a very small world, isn't it."

okay, so it's not the most riveting "six degrees" story ever, but the subject came up because banco de gaia (largely marks himself) is now on the six degrees label, after leaving planet dog a year ago. wanting out of the constrictive knob-tweak clique, but not into the currently shaky realm of the majors, marks saw the u.s. label as a worthy middle ground. "they seemed to be ideal. their style is very varied, they're more into interesting fusions and collaborations than any one particular genre."

given marks' history, 20 years of playing rock guitar, jazz, folk and "other" before glomming onto the possibilities of samplers and 808s, it's understandable that he has little patience with the overly intellectualized, pathologically partitioned environment of electronic music. sewing together neat bits from a world's worth of music into joyful, sun-drenched workouts, marks' tunes are an effective repellent against scowling, chin stroking gloomsayers.

"this time 'round, partly because it suits the album and partly because it's something i want to do, we're touring as a three-piece rock band with samplers, basically. it's a lot of fun, a good laugh. It gives people something to watch, and helps bring out the less serious side of electronica."

on that note, he's double-billed with labelmate cheb i sabbah, whose quasi-academic explorations of indian and arabic classical stand in contrast to marks' kooky, cosmopolitan cut 'n' paste. "i always wondered what he did live, but he actually has some really good grooves and tunes, so he can keep a dancefloor moving. we're a lot more lighthearted, so it balances well. one problem we've always had, especially in europe, was finding the right people to play with. in the early days i got so frustrated, because we'd turn up at a gig and there'd be some dj playing 140 bpm nosebleed music, then we'd come on thinking, 'i can't follow that.' the great thing about cheb i is that he plays stuff that we can follow, picking up where he left off."

so are marks' cheerful earfuls a reflection of his character? is he the quintessential happy guy? "it's ironic, but i tend to get heavily depressed at times. it comes and goes. i'd say i'm not a particularly jolly chap, but then, i can be as well - i'm rather bipolar in that respect. i suspect one reason i play is that it's a sort of therapy for me. maybe what i'm doing is focusing what i wish for into the music, kind of creating the world i want to be in."

at jignxi on thursday, october 21, 10pm, $8


reproduced without permission from montreal mirror. to be used for private and research use only. original article is here.

copyright 1999-2002 gavin stok. all rights reserved